Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Letterpress Love

I mentioned on Sunday what a great weekend I had had, getting stuck into my type and printing letterpress.  It was such a good feeling - I was learning so much, teaching myself, checking with Barry and I got utterly and completely absorbed by it all; as well as delighted with how things worked out.

I don't think any printmaker ever really gets over that moment of 'the reveal' - when you lift the paper from the press and see what magic has transpired.  I had so many happy moments.

That's not to say I have created masterpieces and great works of art; but I have had the satisfaction of achieving what I set out to do, and with some success.

My aim was to have each of the poems hanging on a long slender piece of paper. Drifting a bit like clouds are want to do.

I deliberately printed each poem in a slightly different shade of grey. I had thought I would only print the long sheets - a couple of long white ones and a mottled blue-grey one; but in the end I just kept printing on smaller sheets of whatever light drifty paper I could find in the studio - poor Barry; he was helping me with the long sheets and I kept saying "just one more!" over and over and over again...

Here is one of the poems, layer upon layer, hanging on a metal pole in the studio.

Putting my cardboard on top of my long white paper to make sure there is enough pressure to transfer ink from type to paper.

Ahh the reveal...

This is some of the lovely mottled blue paper, with the last poem.

I love how Barry caught the movement here as I whipped the long sheet up and out!

More movement here as well.

And oh my goodness, the studio is complete and utter chaos. I have all the pieces for Noosa in there along with all the boxes to store them in; there is not a spare surface to be had - so it was on top of the boxes, and over the chairs and... basically all over the shop as I draped the pages to dry.

And then after they and all dried I played about and hung the long ones I had printed. So very very satisfying...

Plain white ones.

Greyish ones

 Bluish ones

And some details...


Lots of fun and lots to go on with!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Printing, process and proofing

I have had the best weekend! It was a passion of printing over in the shed studio as I got to explore the possibilities of letterpress.

Next year, 2016, is the 50th birthday of the Australian Print Council.  To celebrate there will be a juried exhibition called Regional Marks at the University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery from May- July. Only regional artists are eligible and it is looking to showcase printmaking in it all its wondrous glory.

Entries close in a little while and I had set myself a goal of trying to enter some letterpress printing into it - I thought it was a good opportunity to have a go and see if I can really do something with all the type and machinery I now have at my disposal.

This is simply a photo of the cardboard I used after I popped the paper on the type (I used a lot of light paper, hence the leak thru onto the cardboard) and I just loved the soft layering I had by the end of the weekend.

So many hours go into the set-up. It is a time-consuming and laborious process. All those things we take for granted using fonts on computers - the fact we can change the size, justify things L, R or centre, increase spacing etc etc- all with the tap of a key and a click of a mouse; have to be estimated and tested then done by hand. And often times, then done again.

Or at least that's how it is with me!

I had written a few words about living here on the mountain - and the fact that at different times there are clouds below us, clouds surrounding us, and clouds above us.  It is one of the features of our home I love the most; this close and enduring relationship with clouds.

So I scribbled myself some notes about the design. And then accidentally ripped it, and taped it back together.

I wrote three x 4-line 'poems' and went to a magical place on the inter web that will count how many of each letter you will need in order to print the words.  I went and sat with different sets of type I have to see if I could print the poems with the type I had, and found that I pretty much could, with the odd modification here or there. Lots of counting.

So I gathered some 48pt Placard type and set about 'writing' the poems in type, and found of course that the lines were waaaaaaaay too long for my chase and any of my presses.

Plan B. I turned the four line poem into a six line poem and lo and behold it fitted.

And then I realised I needed Plan C - in order to run the paper through the press the way I wanted to I needed to have the poems reading portrait in the chase not landscape. So the six line poem became a seven line poem.

I have just realised that this post could take three hours to write and just as long to read if I go through things literally blow by blow, so I shall jump ahead to proofing!

Locking the chase into the proofing press.

I love the notion of proofing and it is clear from these photos why one needs to do it.

Here I had forgotten to put a space in after a comma; and was a bit worried about the left hand side of the s not getting inked properly.

Here I had removed an 'i', which wasn't getting enough ink, to build it up and then popped it back in the wrong place...All very entertaining, and luckily the mistakes jump out at you.

Another instance of where I had to remove the n and the t and build them up so they were the right height. Which means unlocking everything, getting out the tweezers and lifting the individual pieces of type out, adjusting them, and then putting them back in place without knocking anything else over, and locking up again.

And then just to make the whole shebang an even better concrete learning process, I discovered what happens if you put the paper on the inked type the wrong side up - very very fluffy type!

I just realised this could sound like a disaster-prone weekend, not one which has left my on a huge high, so please know I am excited beyond words! These were the steps in the process, but my, the outcome was just so wonderful! I'll share that soon I promise.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“Allow yourself to be a beginner. No one starts off being excellent.” 

Wendy Flynn

I wonder at what point you stop being a beginner?  I nearly always feel as if I'm still a novice, a learner, only a few steps along a path that takes much time. I always feel as if I am a long way from achievement or excellence - that there is so much room for improvement, so much more to learn and to master. (I want another word for mastery that isn't so masculine - any thoughts?)

And then occasionally I stop and look back, and realise I have probably come a long way since my earliest forays into artistic endeavours. Perhaps I am a better binder of books; perhaps my calligraphy is more confident and free. Perhaps my sense of design has developed. Perhaps.

I think it's tricky to try and allow yourself the freedom of a beginner - after we've been doing things for a while we do have expectations of ourselves above the level of beginner. I do know however that those days when you just let yourself play and wander and meander and follow this track and dabble with that and explore those things over there like a beginner does are often just the best!

One of my favourite play pieces ever!  I was helping Barry tidy up his rust pile and came across theses scraps. I began to build a circle, layering them on top of each other and said at the end "I've built an upside down nest!". We wondered if we could glue it somehow so that when I turned it over it could be a nest...so we did and I could! For the full story see here. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Book 10 - the process

Susan and I have completed the tenth book in our collaboration Pas de Deux.  It feels like quite an achievement and despite both of us struggling to work with this one, we are both happy with the outcome.

Susan has blogged on the beauty of the finished book; and I will do so later in the week as well; but in the interim here is a bit of a photo story of the bits I did.

As many of you know, we have attempted to collaborate differently each time we made a book together.  We have learnt that we collaborate in a slightly unusual manner - by adding to each other's work; rather than doing separate parts of the process which is the more traditional way. So for our final book we thought we'd try to do a traditional collaboration, and create an edition of books.

For this one, Susan did the imagery, and I did the words.

We chose the title "silence" because we both like the notion, and then went back and forth for quite a bit selecting the five quotes we would use.

Susan went on to do the pages, and you can read about how hard it is to illustrate silence on her blog! Once I got the pages to work with, I too had to find a way to write about silence in away that wasn't distracting, and left the pages looking calm and quiet.  For each of us there were challenges.

As a calligrapher, I have to start with what style of writing to use, what size writing, what size nib and then of course what colour.

I start out with handwriting at a size I think works.

I do some lovely loose nib-writing, two different sizes, two different colours.

I do some pressure release skeleton Roman capitals...

I also have to work out the layout, the balance of the words with the imagery and the sense of silence that remains  the page with the use of negative space.

I choose a couple of places to place the words, in the different styles. I ask myself, do I want the words to try and reflect the movement of the marks on the page - so some going diagonally? Or do I want them to be straight simple horizontal lines, tucked into the right space on the page?

In the end I decide that the diagonal lines create too much movement, and don't give the sense of calm and quiet that I think silence needs.  I also think  the simple skeleton Romans work best - the flourish loose lettering seems to compete with the imagery.

Interestingly, unlike previous books we have done together where we would get together and talk to each other about issues and decisions, we agreed to leave each other pretty much alone as we each did our part in this one. It felt a bit weird I must say, but we did tick-tack occasionally.

For example I took these samples to Susan to see what she thought (not mentioning what I thought) and fortunately she came down with the same decision.

So we ended up with simplicity in the words.

And then I got to fiddle with the layout on each page, tucking the words in to spaces, letting them breathe in others...making sure that each page said and did just what it needed to.

 And then, even tho we had decided this would be a unbound book, I wanted to make sure that if, by some chance, somebody chose to take all the pages out and framed them in one long thin panel, that the balance between the imagery and the words also worked as a whole.

So here's my utterly chaotic studio table, with the pages in their sequence, and the words dancing across all five, not stuck on a single track.

 And then the job of writing 10 of each page, aiming for consistency in placement, size, height, length and pressure across each one whilst avoiding rigidity. Skeleton Roman Caps don't leave much room for error - your lettering is laid bare - but their lightness was just right for this work.

After they were done, we looked at them together, and felt that they were still a bit flat. Susan created embossing plates and then embossed some extra marks on them and they were lifted.  Done!

I am currently making the boxes for the books, and cutting the tengucho paper the pages will rest in. Susan has printed extra bands for the boxes and we will soon have them ready to sell!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Time in Townsville

Barry and I have just returned from four very full days in Townsville in Far North Queensland.

It was a mixed bag of a trip - family, friends, reunions, new friends and a bit of art tourism as well.

We started with a lovely visit to Sheree of Red Rag Press.  It was a wonderful few hours talking about books and presses and type. Her letterpress set up is amazing - she has saved so many machines and cases and drawers of type. I am sure we'll be back to talk and play some more.

I took this photo so I can remember I need to make/get made some storage like this for the lead spacing.

We had time for a wonderful walk along the headland at the Jezzine Barracks and were thrilled to discover that there were public art sculptures throughout this wonderful, landscaped walking space.

A lot of the artworks recognise the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the people of Townsville and the defence forces which have used and shared the land which is now in public hands again.

First Contact by Jill Chisolm.

The Gathering by Donna Maree Robinson and Tracey Johnson, looking through a glass porthole across to Magnetic Island.

Close up of markings in the rock in the piece Big Wind Coming by Stephen Newton, with Shirley Collins and Susan Peters.

The sun was too bright to photograph the brolga sculpture, so I grabbed its fabulous shadow on the concrete path instead. Brolga by Rurik Henry with Jeremy George.

I loved this guy. Crow by Rurik Henry

And then found this pair!

Detail from a ceramic post Jezzine Way by Jenny Mulcahy. I love the everydayness of this imagery.

And then in a mad dash through a fabulous second hand shop I came across this wee treasure.  How amazing.

I could have enrolled in the Writing and Illumination course; Barry could have attended Metal Work Smithing!

It includes this lovely map of central Edinburgh amongst many other beautiful plates.

Given we had so many events and commitments I'm quite amazed we got see so much gorgeousness. Good to be home though and settling back into life on the mountain.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

"A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another".

Rebecca Solnit

It would appear that my regular process with Thursday Thoughts is to scroll thru pages of quotes to find one that pops out at me for the day - on the subject I am looking for (as I cycle through art, life and books).  I usually go something like "ooh I like that!" and then I think, "but what does it say?". And so it goes. I think about my instantaneous reaction, what that felt like and what popped into my head with regard to it; and then I stop and re-read it and consider it far more deeply.

It's interesting to observe myself as I do this (maybe interesting is too strong a word!). It seems to me to the blend of me that is - the gut reaction, intuitive response; followed by the analytical response.

Anyhow, I digress.  I loved this one, but then had to work out why.  I pondered the nature of a closed book sitting there. Somewhat inert perhaps. Despite being filled with thoughts and words and dreams and conversations - it can only really come alive when somebody reads it.  I guess the heart symbolises life-force but also passion.

I like the idea of an individual animating the book, bringing it into life and into being by reading it - what an intriguing thought. I have never considered it before, but it seems so very true to me!

We've reached the end of the monthly rainbow search and have ventured out into other colours - this month it's gold, so here's  a piece of gold type! Check with Jennifer or Julie for lots of other lovely golden moments...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Of bags and bows

Barry and I are working on commission at the moment and I need to sew quite a few bags to contain the objects.

It's all good fun as you discover what's possible, explore the best way to do it, find out what supplies you can manage to purchase from within your small town; and get struck in the middle of the night by a solution to something you hadn't realised was a problem!

My first issue was I needed unwaxed navy linen thread. I visited shops, I googled, I tried really really hard, and just couldn't find where to buy some.  So I did my first ever dye of thread.  From this lovely natural linen to this rich deep indigo-navy. Yum.  Feeling pretty chuffed that I solved that problem!

Then it was on to the fabric for the bags - whilst visiting another small town we stopped into a furnishings shop which had a remnant that we thought would work brilliantly. The woman refused to sell it to us (she would only give it to us); so we tried to negotiate; and in the end she said - decide what you'll pay and give it to a charity. We liked that idea and so we did.

I knew I would need to hold the bag together somehow - you need quick and easy access to it; but also for it be held securely.

I went into town looking for a cord of sorts, and in the end found this organic cotton 'ribbon'. Just enough and no more! Phew.

So I cut it to the right lengths and wrapped the bag with a bow.

And then the other night I realised I really wanted to hold the tie to the bag so that it won't get lost or separated at any point in time; and I thought I'd hold it with a little cross stitch! Don't you love those middle of the night solutions?